Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Heavy rains, electricity black-outs blamed for water scarcity

EWSA water
James Sano, the deputy director general in charge of water and sanitation (R) and Theoneste Minani, the director of water at EWSA. (photo Farouk Kaweesi)
Some areas of Kigali city such as Kicukiro, Gikondo, Samuduha, Kimironko and Gatsata are reported to have been experiencing water scarcity for some time now. According to officials at the public utility EWSA, heavy rains and lack of power at water treatment plants and pumps are the main reasons.
The capital consumes about 60% of EWSA’s entire water supply.
According to the officials, heavy rains in most areas of the Western and Northern part of the country, which are the main sources of water for treatment plants, have caused soil erosion, flood and landslides. “This has affected EWSA water supply systems due to the high turbidity of raw water and springs which has made raw water muddy and untreatable,” a statement by the institution said.
As a result, water production at Kimisagara, Nzove and Karenge water treatment plants has been drastically reduced.  The officials say that the situation was worsened by electricity black-outs at some water treatment plants and pump stations.
All these problems combined have caused a decrease in production of 124,692 m3 (a 20% reduction) between January and April.
The Rwanda Meteorological Agency had in February warned that unusual rainfall should be expected from March through May. While areas of Eastern and Southern Province would experience minimal rainfall, Kigali city, Northern and Western Province as well as some areas in the south would be hit by heavier rains than usual.
Theoneste Minani, the director of water at EWSA, on Thursday said that these heavy rains are still affecting some of their water treatment plants. He noted that for instance the water level of Lake Mugesera in the East had risen by 73 cm, threatening nearby Karenge water treatment plant.
While emergency measures such as dikes were taken, Minani said that these are not sustainable solutions to deal with the problem.
To cope with the water scarcity, on the other hand, EWSA officials say that they are finalizing a water rationing program to ensure equitable supply to the affected areas.
In addition, EWSA also faces a problem of water that is consumed but not paid for. “This causes us the loss of 20% of the money that we should be gaining,” said James Sano, EWSA’s deputy director general in charge of water and sanitation.
According to Sano, the commercial losses are mainly the result of EWSA having accepted that some people are connected to the water network without having water meters, paying based on average consumption estimate. However, that practice will come to an end soon. “By the end of May, no one will be allowed to be connected to the EWSA network without a meter,” Sano warned.
Technical losses – water produced and lost before reaching consumers – also cause EWSA headaches, with 32% lost reduced from 40%. Sano notes that it’s not possible to completely eliminate such losses and that even the best water managers around the world can experience a loss of at least 5%.
In a move to minimize its own technical losses, EWSA is working closely with utilities from Germany and The Netherlands in addition to the body’s team that is on standby 24/7 to intervene in case of a technical mishap.
The country’s target has been to achieve 100% of access to clean water by 2017; in 2012, 70% was reached.


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